Suez in 1956 was probably the last time emotions ran so high. After all, the Americans put us in our place by calling a halt.
Leave aside IRA atrocities, we have had the bombing out of the skies of an American airliner over Lockerbie, bitter recriminations over Iraq and Syria, and then the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York 20 years ago.
But none of these brought quite the outrage of the West’s disorderly retreat from Kabul.
You might think we ought to be used to it by now, given the failure in Afghan wars during our military might and then the more recent Russian retreat.
As for the hounding of Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and three heads of Government Departments for being on holiday, I would point out two things.
First, August is the holiday month and second, what are junior Ministers for when the boss is away? And if rank mattered, the Prime Minister was around to approach the evaporating Afghan government.
It is also unrealistic to argue that the British military, however good at its job – and it is very good – could hold a country the size of France without American support, coupled with the usual disinclination of European “powers” to be involved through Nato.
All this carping rather misses the point. The real cause for concern – apart from the miscalculation of Taliban strength and the Afghan army’s resolution shorn of US support – is the timing of the disaster.
It comes when the Western alliance is in as poor a state as I have known it since the Second World War and raises the serious question: has the Western capitalist way of life, with its inherent freedoms, had its day?
After all, kingdoms, courts and cats all perish and so do empires, though interestingly and exceptionally the British Empire morphed into the Commonwealth.
Everywhere you look the free world is in an economic and political mess. China and Russia are also weakened by the pandemic, but they do not have to worry unduly about public opinion.
The threat of the gulag or assassination keeps their people under the state’s thumb – at least for now. The same goes for the Taliban and militant Islam across the Middle East.
The West not only faces old Cold War enemies. It is teeming with enemies within – the hard Left, the politically correct and the wokerati – who are mounting an assault, ably assisted by our universities and major institutions, on our glorious history and freedom of thought and speech.
The sooner we wake up to this challenge the better. The worrying thing is that we show not the slightest sign of doing so. This year, for example, we are obsessed with the environment because of the UN climate change conference in Glasgow in November.
Environmentalists will, of course, say that we need to make sure we have a planet fit to live in. I would argue that we have not only to clean up the environment but also ensure we have a system fit to live in since the totalitarianism of Russia, China, Iran and the worst of woke must be hell on earth.
So, what has to be done? Well, it is not a blind bit of use emoting over Afghanistan, tragic though it is for ordinary Afghans and especially women.
What are we going to do about the fractures in the West’s body politic? We do not have a reliable US president. Politically, Europe is in process of change – not necessarily for the better – with the retirement of Angela Merkel and the decline of foot-in-mouth Emmanuel Macron. Nato, hitherto the guarantor of Western freedom, looks weak.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping assess their chances of annexing the Ukraine and Taiwan – for starters. And what would the West do then, poor things?
The time has come for a serious collective look at Western security, involving the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Europe and as much of the Commonwealth as possible, especially as China is trying to colonise it through major investments.
The West has to show it cares about itself. And, since there is no other leader in sight likely to do so, Boris must. He has enough on his plate, but never too much for preserving freedom.
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